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  • AEHF-1 Reaches Orbit
    Posted by Irene Klotz 2:03 PM on Aug 14, 2010

    The first member of the military’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite network reached geosynchronous transfer orbit on Aug. 14, capping a nine-year effort to develop a successor to the existing Milstar II communications spacecraft.

    The AEHF-1 satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket outfitted with three Aerojet solid rocket motors, a single-engine Centaur upper-stage and a 5.4-meter-diameter RUAG payload fairing. Liftoff occurred at 7:07 a.m. EDT.

    Following a four-minute, 19-second burn of the Russian-built RD-180 booster engine and two burns of the Centaur’s Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL10 engine, the satellite was released at 7:58 a.m. as it flew over the Indian Ocean.

    Over the next three months, AEHF-1’s orbit will be circularized so that it flies about 22,300 miles over the equator at 90 degrees West longitude for satellite checkout and calibration. It will then be relocated to an operational orbit, which will be determined based on needs at the time, officials said. AEHF-1 should be ready to be enter service in early 2011.

    The military says one AEHF spacecraft has more capacity than the entire five-member Milstar satellite constellation, with faster data rates to enhance tactical military communications by providing higher-quality maps, targeting data and live video transmissions.

    In addition to secure, jam-resistant communications for multiple branches of the U.S. military, AEHF is the first protected satcom to include partner nations, said  Air Force Capt. Jonathan Pellum.

    “It’s a game-changing moment,” Pellum said during a webcast of the launch.

    Two more AEHF satellites are scheduled to be launched over the next two years and a contract to build a fourth spacecraft is expected to be issued soon. Lockheed Martin is the lead contractor on the AEHF program, with Northrop Grumman providing the payload. Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom participated in AEHF development.

    The Pentagon’s Selected Acquisition Reports describes a six-satellite AEHF program costing $12.5 billion.

    Tags: AEHF, SatCom, Atlas

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